Tag: amps

Sonic Electronix Certified Amplifiers

Sonic Electronix Certified Amplifiers* are thoroughly tested by our in-house experts for accurate power output compared to manufacturer stated ratings, ensuring you know the true power ratings before you purchase your amplifier.

Our certified amps are professionally tested to determine true amplifier power output using our SMD Amplifier Dyno. We put these amplifiers through both a certified test and a dynamic test to give you the most accurate information about these amplifiers. When in certified mode, the SMD Amp Dyno utilizes the SMD patented DD-1 distortion detection system to determine whether it is measuring clean power or not. This is accomplished by slowly building power input until the system measures greater than 1% harmonic distortion and takes a final power reading and battery voltage rating at that point. The Dynamic Test utilizes industry standard burst signals to capture the power generated by the amp.

The benefits of these tests are to ensure you don’t have to guess as to whether the amplifier you’re purchasing will meet your power needs. Some amplifiers have greatly exaggerated power ratings which are attempting to deceive consumers with huge numbers rather than accurate ratings. With the Sonic Electronix Certified Amplifier rating, you know exactly what you’ll be getting!

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High-Level V.S. Low-Level Inputs

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Car audio amplifiers come in a variety of configurations that can contour perfectly to your installation scenario. One aspect of an audio amplifier is the way it accepts a signal from your audio source, for example your stock radio versus your aftermarket radio. More often than not, factory radio systems do not have RCA connections coming out of the back designated for an amplifier connection. However, most aftermarket radios will contain several preamp outputs to connect multiple amplifiers. If you take a look at your amplifier it will have high-level inputs, low level-inputs or even both. So what is the difference between the two?

High-Level Input

High-Level Input
High-Level (Speaker Level) Inputs:
Speaker level inputs are commonly referred to as high-level inputs and vice versa. Some amplifiers will have special adapters with bare wire at the end, this wire will connect to your speaker wires. Speaker level inputs are used when you want to connect an amplifier to your factory radio or an aftermarket radio that does not have low-level (RCA) inputs. It allows you to use the signal coming from the speaker outputs as an input source for the amplifier.

Low Level

Low-Level Input
Low-Level (Line Level) Inputs:
Line level inputs, also known as RCA inputs or low-level inputs, use RCA interconnect cables to link the amplifier with the source unit. Most aftermarket radios have multiple pairs of RCA outputs that can connect to multiple amplifiers. Factory radios, even those with stock amplifiers, often do not have low-level inputs so these are used mostly with aftermarket setups.

Is there a difference in sound quality between the two input methods? Factory stereo systems connected with high-level inputs will not sound as good as low-level inputs. If your using an aftermarket stereo, there won’t be much of a difference between high-level or low-level inputs on basic systems. If you’re going higher end use low-level inputs. Often times high-level inputs are connected incorrectly and as a result there is signal degradation.  Because high-level inputs require that you splice into your vehicle wiring, some users forgo that option and prefer to run the RCA cables instead. These input methods give great flexibility when installing into vehicles regardless of their system type.

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How to Match a Subwoofer and an Amplifier

As you scavenge deeper into the realm of car audio, you begin to realize that figuring out the proper amplifier/subwoofer setup is a lot harder than just matching power ratings. As you sift through all of the different manufacturers, you might notice that the word “ohms” appears often.  Have you found yourself wondering, “Well the subwoofer is 2 ohms, so I should probably get an amplifier at 2 ohms?” In most cases you would be incorrect, for various reasons. To avoid confusion, we’ll let scientists deal with Ohm’s Law and instead focus on the actual matching process. In this article I will explain to you how to match a subwoofer and amplifier so you do not end up blowing any fuses, mentally or physically.

There are a few criteria we have to look at first. For example, the distinction between a monoblock amplifier and a 2-channel amplifier, as well as the difference of a single voice coil subwoofer versus a dual voice coil subwoofer. I will discuss these categorically and explain each one, so when it is all said and done, you just have to match up your equipment in a chart to find the answer! Let’s start with some terminology:

Channels

This does not refer to the channels that you switch between on your TV while trying to find the Lakers game, and it does not refer to a channel that is filled with water. In the audio world, the word “channel” refers to the stream of data on one line, or in the case of amplifiers, one cable of power. A single channel amplifier has one terminal that distributes power to a speaker, while a two channel amplifier has two terminals that distribute power. Likewise with 4 and 5 channels amplifiers, it’s the number of routes available for information or power to flow.

If you have ever heard the terms “mono” and “stereo” you most likely link that to a sound system. If music is recorded in “stereo,” it means that it has a left and right side, so the left side might output the sound of the guitar while the right side pumps out the vocals. Stereo is effectively 2-channels, so the recording engineers can choose to have certain music play on one side or the other at any given time.

Bridging

When you bridge two channels together, they create one channel. This is used most often in 2 or 4 channel amplifiers. If you have two channels but only want to run one speaker, the channels can be bridged, or wired together, to create one single channel. It’s exactly like a wooden bridge in that it connects two paths together as one (Learn more about amplifier bridging).

Monoblock and Class D Amplifiers

Monoblock and Class D amplifiers have only one channel that is typically used for powering one subwoofer at lower frequencies. I find this type of amp to be the best choice for running one or two subwoofers. How do you run two subwoofers off of an amplifier that has only one channel? This can be a headache for those who do not know the difference between series and parallel wiring. If you have two subwoofers, you can wire the subwoofers together in series or parallel and then wire them to the amplifier.

Two Channel Amplifiers

A two channel amplifier can be wired in a few different ways because it has two channels which you can bridge together to create one channel. You can run one channel to each subwoofer, which acts as though each sub has its own monoblock amplifier hooked up to it. You can bridge the channels together into one channel and run one subwoofer or more, but this option forces you to run the amplifier at a 4 ohm load. While two-channel amps are a good option, I prefer to run a monoblock amplifier system.

Four Channel Amplifiers

A four channel amplifier has, well, four channels. This type of amplifier is mostly used to power speakers, not subwoofers. The average car has four speakers, two in the front and two in the back. Each channel connects to one speaker. Simple enough, right? But we can make this somewhat complicated by using subwoofers instead and bridging the channels together. If you have four channels (1,2,3,4), you can bridge channels 1 and 2 together, and then bridge channel 3 and 4 together. So you end up with two channels total. You cannot bridge those two channels into one channel; it will end up destroying your amplifier. The majority of the time, when a channel has been bridged, it turns into a four ohm channel. So if you have two channels, each at 2 ohms, and then bridge them together, it turns into four ohms (I will address ohms soon, so don’t worry!).

Single/Dual Voice Coil Subwoofers

Now I have to introduce the two major types of voice coils, Single Voice Coil (SCV) and the Dual Voice Coil (DVC). You will see this a lot as you look through different subwoofers. A SVC subwoofer has one voice coil and one set of terminals, one positive (+) and one negative (-). A DVC subwoofer has two voice coils, each with its own set of terminals. Because of this, DVC subwoofers offer more wiring options than SVC speakers. You will see that most DVC subwoofers can be wired at two different ohm levels, unlike a SVC which can be wired at only one ohm level. There is little to no difference in sound quality between the two types of subwoofers.

Ohm

First let’s check the dictionary’s definition of an ohm. “A unit of electrical resistance equal to that of a conductor in which a current of one ampere is produced by a potential of one volt across its terminals.” Confusing right? Don’t worry, sometimes I have trouble understanding it too! Basically, it’s the resistance to the flow of energy. The higher the ohm, the more resistance. So, 2 ohms has less resistance than 4 ohms. Amplifiers often give their power ratings at 2 ohms and 4 ohms. You will notice that the power rating at 4 ohms is less than the power rating at 2 ohms, or even 1 ohm on some amplifiers. The goal is to buy an amplifier and subwoofers that will give you the most power when you wire them together.

Parallel Wiring

If you have two parallel lines, it usually means they run next to each other but never touch. Parallel wiring is similar to it. If you wire in parallel, you would hook all of the positive speaker terminals together on one line, and all of the negative speaker terminals on the other.

Series Wiring

Series wiring can become a bit confusing. You take a single current path and arrange it among all of the components. It effectively makes a chain, so everything is hooked together as one. The parallel wiring, you would hook together similar terminals only, instead of wiring everything together.

Series/Parallel Wiring Charts

Single Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohms 2 Ohms
2 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohms
4 Ohm DVC 2 Ohms 8 Ohms
6 Ohm DVC 3 Ohms 12 Ohms
4 Ohm SVC N/A 4 Ohms
8 Ohm SVC N/A 8 Ohms

Dual Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
2 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohm 2 Ohm
4 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
6 Ohm DVC 1.5 Ohm 6 Ohm
4 Ohm SVC 2 Ohm 8 Ohm
8 Ohm SVC 4 Ohm N/A

Combining Subs and Amps

Hopefully you have a greater understanding after reading the terminology section. This next section is aimed at helping you find the perfect amplifier and subwoofer combination. If you did not understand any of the terminology, the subwoofer wiring chart will help you out. The chart is based on a one channel amplifier wiring setup. If you have two subwoofers, it assumes you are wiring them to a single channel. If you have two subwoofers and two channels, you would look at the “1 Sub” section, because each sub gets its own channel. In the end, the power of the amplifier needs to equal the power of the subwoofers. For example, and amplifier that has 400 watts should be paired with one subwoofer that runs at 400 watts, or two subwoofers that run at 200 watts each. Regardless of the combination, the main goal is to equal out the power while running the products at their respective continuous power ratings.

Alright, so let’s say you buy two Kicker 10CVR124 subwoofers. Each sub has an RMS power rating of 400 watts, and each subwoofer is a 4 ohms, Dual voice coil sub. Scan the chart for 2 subwoofers, then find the matching ohm level and voice coil type. So, we look for the DVC (Dual Voice Coil) and then the 4 Ohms right next to it. From here we see that It lists the ohm levels that wiring these subwoofers together in series or parallel will produce. So looking at the chart it says these two subwoofers can be wired in parallel at 1 ohm or series at 4 ohms. Remember what I said about the ohms? The lower ohm level has less resistance. So let’s choose a 1 ohm stable amplifier to give these subwoofers the most power! Because each subwoofer runs at 400 watts RMS, we need to find an amplifier that runs at around 800 watts RMS.

Let’s look at a Monoblock, or single channel amplifier. The Rockford Fosgate R750-1D monoblock amplifier puts out 750 watts at 1 ohm at one channel. While it is not exactly 800 watts, we do not have to be perfect. Just don’t go too much over or under. As it is, this would be a near perfect match. If you decided to wire the subs at 4 ohms, you would have to find an amplifier that puts out 800 watts of power at 4 ohms, which can be very expensive.

Let’s keep the same subwoofers but choose a two channel amplifier. Assume we will not bridge the channels. This changes things a bit, because you need to act as though you have one subwoofer instead of two given that each subwoofer has its own channel. So in this case, we look at the chart for 1 subwoofer, with a dual voice coil, at 4 ohms. It says in Parallel it wires to 2 ohms, and in series it wires at 8 ohms. Lets choose the 2 ohm stable amp to get the most power. I found an RE Audio CTX-1600.2 amplifier which has 700 watts of power bridged at 4 ohms (each channel has 350 watts of power at 2 ohms). Each subwoofer gets one channel, so each subwoofer gets 350 watts to it. This is just about right since each subwoofer has an RMS power rating of 400 watts.

If you took the same amplifier and bridged the channels together, once bridged they stay at 4 ohms. So while these subwoofers would still work, you would have to look back at the 2 subwoofer chart. It has to be wired in series, because this amplifier is not 1 ohm stable.

I would not recommend a 4-Channel amplifier for subwoofers, but if you have to have one, just know that you will not be able to find an amplifier that puts out 400 watts each channel. However, you could bridge each of the channels together, making it a 2 channel amplifier. In this case you would need to bridge a 4-Channel amp with power levels at 200 watts per channel. Once bridged it turns into 400 watts at 2 channels. Does this work with our subs? According to the chart, a bridged four channel amp is classified as a two channel amp. Since each sub gets a channel, you will also look at the 1 Sub section on the chart. The chart tells us that a 4 ohm dual voice coil wires to 2 ohms or 8 ohms, not 4 ohms. Since the subwoofers we choose can only be wired at 4 ohms, you would need to find a different set of subwoofers that are suitable for 2 or 8 ohm loads.

Now you should be ready to start building your own system. Besides an amplifier and subwoofers, you will need to purchase speaker wire, wiring kits among other install accessories. Call us at 1-877-BUY-SONIC if you have any questions along the way.

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Browse the entire selection of car amplifiers at Sonic Electronix. Use what you learned in this article to find the right amp for you.

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Shop Car Subwoofers

Browse the entire selection of car subwoofers at Sonic Electronix. Use what you learned in this article to find the right subwoofer for you.

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How to Install an Amplifier in your Car

Required Tools:

You may also need one or more of the following:  Screwdrivers (Flat, Phillips) and Screws, Drill, Pliers, Knife, Flashlight, Soldering Gun, Panel Remover, Electrical tape

Decide on a Mounting Location

Find a suitable location in your vehicle. Be sure that there is sufficient air circulation around the intended mounting location. The mounting location should not interfere with walkways or any other space occupied by passenger extremities. Many common locations include the trunk space or underneath the seat.

Mark the location for the mounting screws by positioning the car amp over the mounting spot. Use a scribe or mounting screw to reach through the mounting holes and mark the mounting surface. Drill holes in the mounting surface for the mounting screws and attach the amp to the mounting surface with screws. Prior to drilling, investigate your vehicle to figure out where the gas tank, gas lines and electrical lines are located. This way you can avoid drilling through these areas.

Wiring Configuration

Prior to wiring, read your amplifier’s manual to get an understanding of the power, input and speaker connections. Make sure you understand the diagrams before you proceed.

Low-level input wiring, or RCA wiring, is the optimal wiring configuration. High-level input wiring, or speaker input wiring, is only recommended if your head unit does not have RCA inputs. For systems without RCA outputs, connect the speaker outputs from the receiver to the high level inputs of the amplifier.

In order to connect your amplifier to your vehicle’s power system, you will need an amplifier wiring kit. Install kits provide all of the necessary wires and parts required for the install.

Step by Step Guide

To prevent an electrical short circuit, engage your vehicle’s parking brake and disconnect the negative terminal on your battery.

The first step is to connect a ground wire from the power ground terminal of the amplifier to the vehicle’s chassis. Try to make this as short as possible. The next step is to attach the power wire to the positive battery terminal. Run the wire through the firewall (you may need to drill a hole to do so). Next connect the remote terminal to the remote output of the head unit. Now connect an empty fuse holder, and run wire from this fuse to the amp location. Connect the fuse holder to the power connection on the amplifier.

If your system has multiple amplifiers, you will need to run a pair of separate cables from the battery and a chassis ground to each amp. Each cable must have its own inline fuse. You will also need to ground each amplifier, either by using a distribution block or by running a separate ground wire for each amp. If you are running multiple amplifiers, you may need to install a digital capacitor to help modulate power from the vehicle’s electrical system.

Now you are ready to connect your speakers to the amplifier. Use the line inputs and outputs to connect all of the speakers. Be sure to follow proper polarity rules. After this step, now insert the fuse(s) into the battery fuse holder(s) and check all of the connections before powering the amp. Make sure all of the wires are concealed and tucked away. Set all of the controls to the minimum levels, and set all of the crossover controls and switches to the desired frequency points. Now you are ready to turn on the head unit and the amplifier. Adjust the volume control on the head unit to about 75% of the maximum, and adjust the amplifier’s input level control(s) to just below the level of distortion. Tune the amp until you find your desired sound output.

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Types of Amplifiers

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Amplifiers are classified by different class ratings (A, AB, D, etc.) and categorized by the number of channels they provide (mono, 2-, 4- etc). The class of an amplifier refers to the amplifier’s internal circuitry. Class A amplifiers have the highest sound quality, but are the least efficient and do not dissipate heat very effectively. Class AB amplifiers run more efficiently and dissipate heat better than Class A amplifiers. This is why Class AB amps are more reliable and produce lower distortion in comparison to Class A amps. In terms of the angle of flow for the input signal, Class A and Class AB amplifiers have analog designs, while Class D amplifiers have switching designs.

Class D Amp
Class D Amplifiers
Multi-Channel Amp
Multi-Channel Amp

Class D amplifiers are more efficient and produce less heat than Class AB amplifiers. While Class D amps are more susceptible to distortion than Class AB amps, this distortion is usually filtered out by the low-pass filter and is inaudible to the human ear. Mono amplifiers are single channel amps, but they can be used to power more than one subwoofer. Mono amps typically produce more power than multi-channel amps, which makes them ideal for powering subwoofers. Class D mono amps are the most efficient of all amplifier designs because they draw less current and as a result generate less heat in comparison to the classic mono amplifier design.

Multi-channel amplifiers come in the 2-channel, 4-channel, 5-channel, and 6-channel variety. 2-channel amps can power two subwoofers in stereo, or you can combine the channels (or “bridge” the amp) to create a single channel for powering one subwoofer. 2-channel amplifiers use class A/B circuitry, which is usually not stable at lower impedances. If you bridge a 2-channel amp down to 1-channel in order to get maximum power, it will be less stable. 2-Channel amps are commonly used in single cab trucks, 2-door coupes or any other vehicles that don’t have rear speakers.

A 4-channel amplifier can power four speakers, or you can bridge the channels to a 2-channel output for powering two subs. 2-channel and 4-channel amps are also used to power component speaker systems. You can power two sets of speakers from a 2-channel amplifier stable at 2 ohms. If you do so, this will make the amp more susceptible to overheating, and you will not be able to fade between the two sets of speakers. This is why a 4-channel is the optimal choice for powering 2 sets of speakers. Most 4-channel amps can bridge down to a 3-channel or 2-channel amp for more power out of the bridged channels. However, when bridged, the stability is decreased.

4- 5- and 6-channel amplifiers are used for systems with a combination of full-range speakers and subwoofers. For example, you could use a 4-channel amplifier to power a pair of speakers through two channels and bridge the remaining two for powering a single subwoofer. You can also run multiple two channel or mono amplifiers to power systems with numerous speakers. 5-Channel amps act like two amps in one. You get a 4-channel amp to power four door speakers and a monoblock amp to produce a higher power output for a subwoofer. These are great for any vehicles with limited space. 6-channel amps are rare, but they are used for marine applications or larges SUVs. 6-channel amps feature six low power speaker outputs to power 3 sets of speakers.

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